The Audeze LCD-1 is the company’s new entry-level planar magnetic headphones with an open-back, foldable, and light-weight design. It is priced at $399.
Disclaimer: The Audeze LCD-1 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Audeze for giving us this opportunity.
To read more about Audeze products we have reviewed on Headfonics click here.
I can see how this would be an attractive reference listening experience. Not dead neutral by the way, never confuse those terms as being the same. Rather, the LCD-1 invites you to listen to the bigger picture rather than tease you with dominant bass candy, treacly vocal forwardness, or a frosted treble on top. It is the whole cake this time and at $399 it tastes rather good.
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I have kind of been looking forward to getting this review out to you but with the various lockdowns since March things have got a bit delayed. Our apologies for that but if you have prepped with our first contact on the Audeze LCD-1 we advise you to jump right into read our in-depth sound impressions and comparisons on page 2. Otherwise, if you are new to the LCD-1 then read on.
The LCD-1 is an open back planar headphone but it Audeze’s most affordable LCD branded headphones at $399. It is also moving in on the more expensive SINE DX territory with a small form factor and foldable design. This makes the LCD-1 Audeze’s first really portable over-ear headphone option.
The timing of the new LCD-1 is a nod to the original LCD-1 which was launched in 2008. The new launch date of the LCD-1 was on the tail-end of 2019 so we have had a few months with it and this is one of my daily users when not head deep in another review.
Everything that makes an Audeze headphone an LCD headphone is stuffed inside the LCD-1. This is not an entirely new thought process here but it is an entirely new trickle-down of that existing technology into a smaller more portable form factor.
Trickle Down High-End Tech
This includes existing technology such as their Ultra-thin Uniforce™ Diaphragms and Fluxor™ Magnets commonly used on their higher-end LCD line-up. It also includes their Fazor airflow technology. What has changed, however, is the size and by that, I mean driver size.
The typical LCD headphone planar diaphragm or transducer size is 106mm starting with the LCD-2 Classic and right up to the LCD-4Z. Now how much of that size is a moving part I am not too sure as sometimes it can be a little smaller.
With the LCD-1 it has been reduced to 90mm which is still substantially larger in physical size to something like the Final D8000 which is only 50mm in diameter and the Verum 1 is 82mm. That fact they have been able to get that shoved into such a diminutive cup is all the more impressive.
The LCD-1 is 70g lighter than the now-discontinued Oppo PM3 at just 250g compared to 320g. Just let that sink in for a while because there was a time when planar magnetic headphones and additional weight were synonymous with each other. Not anymore. The PM-3 was heralded as an example of how to lower that weight. Even the smaller SINE DX is heavier than the LCD-1 at 290g compared to 250g.
How did we get there? Well, the LCD-1 uses a copious amount of plastic in its build to shave a lot of that weight off for a start. Outside of the spring-steel headband and screws, I am hard-pressed to find any aluminum or metal construction on the LCD-1. This in turn also saves on raw material costs over heavier alloy parts which sure helps meet those project BOM budgeting concerns at the R’n’D table.
To be fair though, the design is excellent and the stiffened plastic is nicely finished and feels sturdy. Those coming from the SINE DX will be more than familiar with the core “A-Grill” sleek aesthetic because it does have a similar look though with a more traditional portable headphone cup shape. The SINE DX does have better raw materials with its steel housing but then again it was a good deal more expensive and heavier.
This is the big differentiator for me between the SINE series, EL8, and any other LCD headphones, the articulating and foldable design of the LCD-1. Surprisingly, it has actually less 180-degree cup swivel than the SINE DX but it doesn’t really matter because it has enough for plenty of adjustment on the head.
The ability to fold it inwards in a stacking fashion turns this reasonably sized planar into a very small footprint indeed. Importantly, it does it without the painful flex sound you get from cheaper plastic headphones. It is virtually silent from the joints when folding.
Cable & Connectors
Audeze has simplified the dual-entry cable connectors on the LCD-1 compared to the DX. Gone are the angular slide and lock connectors and in comes a more routine 3.5mm TRS dual-entry socket system at the base of the cup.
I must admit that the slide and lock connectors of the DX looked beautiful when in place but they were slightly awkward to work with. The LCD-1 is more basic in its aesthetic and does not have much of an angle to clear collars etc but they do the job and will detach easily under pressure.
The stiffer flat cable of the SINE DX is also done away with and replaced with a nylon jacketed 2m 3.5mm TRS cable with channel-agnostic 3.5mm connectors. This means the L and R are determined by the headphone cups, not the cable. I have yet to find out what the wire is or gauge so we will try for the main review.
You will not have an issue with microphonics but it is a bit stiff and memory retentive for me. It is also quite long for portable use. With a dual 3.5mm, however, I can roll this with shorter cables for easier use if required.
Comfort & Fitting
The LCD-1 is miles comfier than the SINE series with a little less clamping force, slightly larger cup size, and deeper memory foam and leather pads. The pressure distribution thus far seems solid with a nice balance between vertical and lateral pressure. They do feel secure on the head and with the foam padding underside, they feel very comfortable.
As of now, I do not feel any pressure hot spots centrally on my scalp. However, I do think that prolonged use of the leather pads might produce some heat for long listening sessions. Velour options might be useful so long as they do not mess up the sound.
One thing I did notice is that the LCD-1 is technically a shorter headphone than the SINE DX. There is plenty of spring steel length on the headband but how long for big heads I do not know. Mine is rather small and the shortest fitting works just fine for me.
The LCD-1 comes in a typically impressive and relatively large Audeze retail box though it is not quite as flashy as their higher-end LCD travel cases or wooden display boxes. This is a black cardboard material and something similar to their older EL8 open-back packaging which we have here still. Not the white, but the original black version. I believe they used the white packaging line for Lighting powered EL8 as well as the SINE series.
The accessory lineup is relatively simple but very revealing regarding what makes the LCD-1 so unique. Inside, you get the following:
A 2m 3.5mm to dual 3.5mm cable with reversible connectors
3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter
Zippered travel case
Certificate of Authenticity
The standout is really that carry case. We already know it is a folding design but the tiny case really hammers home the message that the LCD-1 can be tucked away relatively easily in a backpack or large bag. The materials used are more practical than opulent with a netted nylon finish over a semi-stiffened black interior.
There is also a small strap and smooth zipper function for keeping everything tucked in safely and for general hand carrying. My only criticism of the zipper is the lack of branding and the overly smooth finish which lacks a little grip but it is a very minor observation.
Inside, you can enough space to fold away the LCD-1 plus a little mesh netting up top to hold your accessories and cable. Audeze has also thrown a small cushioned divider to prevent any damage during transportation.
Click on Page 2 below for Sound Impressions & Comparisons